Many countries throughout Europe, North America, and Australasia have regular placements of au pairs with local families. In some of these countries, a specific visa for au pairs must be obtained. For other locations, au pairs enter the country on a Working Holiday visa. Or, in the case of Europe, au pairs are simply permitted to work as members of the European Union. Each country has slightly different regulations, and it is up to you and your host family to be sure that you working within the correct legal framework. It will be up to you, either through an agency or on your own, to be sure you have the correct visa arrangements before embarking on your au pair journey. These regulations are also subject to change, so always check that you have the most recent information on visa requirements.
As part of the visa process, note that some countries also require a police check or working with children check. This is to ensure that you do not have a criminal record. Be prepared to complete additional paperwork and, in some cases, pay a fee for these additional safety checks.
Finding a job as an au pair
Once you’ve applied and been approved for your visa, if needed, you can begin to make your plans for your time abroad! Some people wait until they get to their host country to find an au pair job, but Sitter Train recommends finding your host family before arrive, so you will have a place to go immediately. Saving money and travel time for the end of your trip is often the best plan, so you are adjusted to the new culture and know more about which areas you really want to explore at the end of your stay.
There are many options for finding an au pair position, almost all of which you can find online or through an agency in your own country. Many agencies and websites operate online, so access to a computer is a good way to get started.
Listing your profile to find a family yourself.
Sitter Train has partnered with Aupairworld- the world’s leading au pair agency on the internet – who allow you to create a profile of yourself and match up with host families without an agent. This is often referred to as an “independent au pair”. This method works well for many au pairs. To use such an Internet-based method successfully, it is important that you really take time to get to know your future host family in advance of your au pair stay through email exchange and Skype sessions. Also, be sure to have a written au pair contract and to make arrangements for health insurance during your au pair stay.
There are agencies who are dedicated to finding the “right” match for host families and au pairs. Agencies charge an ‘introduction fee’ to match you with a suitable host family with a more personalized approach. They will also do their best to support you while you are in your host country, and many agencies offer social engagements for au pairs to meet each other and make new friends.
An agency is a good choice if you want to enlist the support of a third party in selecting a family. Going through an agency should provide you with the knowledge that the family you have agreed to work for has been “screened” as a safe environment for you to live in (screening policies vary among different agencies – ask and find out what screening steps are taken). The agency also should ensure that the family can provide adequate accommodation and that they understand the conditions you should work in (ie. pay, hours, tasks). If you go through an agency it is also advisable to have a written contract that specifies the conditions of your au pair stay so that the arrangements are clear for all involved. Your agency should also provide you with support for any questions you have and someone to talk to for advice in case something goes wrong.
Some agencies charge au pairs for orientation packages, some provide opportunities for social get-togethers, help with setting up bank accounts, discount coupons, or CPR or first aid training, depending on which one you join. Most importantly once you have made the decision to join an agency, make sure you let them do their job and have confidence that they have your best interests at heart! After all, they get paid for a successful placement, not one that ends in tears! If you haven’t signed up to an agency, you can contact Sitter Train for advice on the right agency for you.
Regardless of the method, you choose to find a family, by doing the Sitter Train Au Pair Essentials course, you can be assured that you have taken a great decision in making the best possible preparation for the wonderful experience that awaits you.
Creating a profile
Agencies can do this for you, however, if you do wish to do it yourself you can create your profile online and start meeting potential host families yourself.
Here are some tips for what to include in your profile:
A warm, recent photo of yourself
Biographical information about who you are – where you are from, and the family you have come from
Talents and activities: what do you like to do? What can you offer to teach your host family?
Previous childcare experiences
Your Sitter Train certificate of completion
Recommendations – at least two previous employers to recommend you as a reliable, safe and fun child carer
I think I found a host family. Now what?
If you are contacted by a potential host family, chances are they will want to talk to you on the phone or, preferably, video chat with you, to see if it’s a good match. Skype, Facebook, Google Plus and many other applications can allow you to meet your potential host family online first. Alternatively, your agency will propose a family for you. Try to relax and be yourself when meeting host families – remember, you will be living with them so it’s pretty hard to hide any big secrets. Better to be open, honest and upfront from the beginning if you have any major health or dietary issues that the host family should know about. Try to dress presentably and make a good impression! It’s important to show that you are professional, even over Skype – first impressions mean a lot. So speak slowly and politely…
There are many factors that can influence a family’s decision on whether to hire you or not. If you schedule an interview or Skype date, plan to be able to answer the following types of questions:
What dates are you available?
Do you smoke?
Do you like animals?
How many siblings do you have?
What kind of childcare experience do you have?
How well do you speak English?
Do you know how to swim?
What kinds of food do you like to eat?
Do you know how to cook?
Why are you interested in coming to their country?
You might also want to ask the family a lot of questions. After all, you’re probably curious about things like:
Where do you live? In the city or in the country?
How many kids are in your family?
What are their ages?
Have you ever had an au pair before?
Do both parents work outside the home?
What hours would you need me to work?
What types of activities do you like to do?
What responsibilities would I have?
Will I have my own room and bathroom?
Are there local activities that I can do?
Are there other au pairs or peers to meet in the area?
Choosing the right host family
In the best-case scenario, you will receive offers from multiple host families who would love for you to join them. After having one or more conversations with the family, trust your instinct as to who would be a fun, safe and welcoming family to join. Likewise, if you join an agency, they will have more of a detailed background on the family you have met and been able to guide you.
Some questions you might want to consider are:
How many children are there?
What ages are the children, and am I comfortable caring for those ages?
Do the parents seem friendly?
Is my work schedule reasonable?
Does the family live in an area (country or city) that I want to see?
Will I have comfortable accommodations?
Once you have made a decision, you should feel excited! A few steps you can take to continue getting to know your host family until you arrive are:
Video chat dates with the family – chat a few more times to get to know each other better
Bring gifts for the family from your home country – don’t show up empty-handed, but just a small gesture is all that’s needed
Send a letter or postcard
Send the family more photos of you and your family and friends
The more you get to know each other before you arrive, the easier the transition will be. Good communication skills will get your relationship with your host family off to a great start!
Make your travel arrangements
Communicate with your host family about your plans and your expected arrival date. Make arrangements for transportation to your host family – will they pick you up at the airport or do you need to find other transportation? Often times, families will be happy to collect you from the airport as long as they don’t live too far away or have a conflict with their work schedule. If you come through an agency, they will make sure you not left to your own devices. Often times an agency representative will arrange for your transportation from the airport.
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